By Land or By Sea: How the Federal Government Preserves and Protects in Maine
This column is the first in a series documenting the journey of FEDmanager and FEDagent Editor Maya Meltsner and her dog Huey, who are currently travelling the country in an RV to explore the federal government’s presence in each of the fifty states. This column is brought to you by WAEPA (Worldwide Assurance for Employees of Public Agencies).
Huey and I began our trip in the picturesque state of Maine. We drove up the coast along U.S. Route 1, which, as one of the first federally designated numbered highways, seemed a fitting place to start our journey. After a series of mishaps, from a stuck gas cap (cause: user error) to a debit card fraud declination (cause: overzealously protective bank), we finally made it to our first destination: Acadia National Park.
The serenity of the park enveloped us as soon as we drove through the entrance. Because Acadia is such a popular destination, the surrounding areas are quite built up (by Maine standards, at least). The difference between the preserved lands of the park and the area outside the park’s boundary is palpable.
We drove along the Park Loop Road to get to the Blackwoods Campground. It smelled like trees and campfires and the ocean. A park ranger checked us in. Huey happily accepted a cookie and the opportunity to become a B.A.R.K. Ranger. Unfortunately, I think he ruined his chances by escaping from the RV the next morning and taking a solitary frolic through the woods. Although I was disappointed in him and really do understand the importance of keeping pets leashed, he did not seem sorry at all.
Huey basks in the morning sun (on his leash!) at Blackwoods Campground.
We went on a strenuous hike up Dorr Mountain and Cadillac Mountain. Huey expertly navigated the rock-scrambling the hike entailed and was very popular amongst the people we met along the way. I appreciated the National Park Service’s excellent trail-marking and the breathtaking 360-degree view from the top of Cadillac.
We spent that night at the Seawall Campground in a different section of the park and ate breakfast in a picnic area right on the rocky coastline. Despite the less-than-balmy temperatures, Huey insisted on sticking his paws in the water so he could snuffle through the seaweed. After agreeing that Acadia National Park was well worth the visit (which really meant I was talking to myself while Huey was sniffing for wildlife), we hit the road and headed south.
On a whim, we decided to take a break at Fort Knox. I had a vague sense that Fort Knox housed the nation’s gold, but I was fairly certain that it was not in Maine. Turns out I was right, and there are two Forts Knox. Both are named for Major General Henry Knox, the U.S.’s first Secretary of War. The one we visited, which is currently overseen by the state of Maine, is a National Historic Landmark—a designation bestowed by the Department of the Interior in 1971—and sadly contains no gold. We nonetheless enjoyed learning about the history of the fort (me) and rolling in the grass (Huey). Exploring the nooks and crannies of the fort’s solid architecture provided equal enjoyment for us both.
Huey poses beside cannonballs at Fort Knox, ready to face the British (or play fetch).
Following the War of 1812, the federal government continued to worry about British incursions onto American soil, as British forces had occupied parts of Maine during that war. Construction of Fort Knox on the bank of the Penobscot River began in 1844. Due to a constant struggle to extract funding from Congress, construction took over twenty years. Soldiers were stationed at the fort during the Civil and Spanish-American Wars, although they never saw any action.
A cannon at the fort, aimed to blast British forces.
In 1923, Congress allowed the Secretary of War to sell off military properties that were no longer deemed useful, with state governments getting the first bid. Thus, the state of Maine purchased the fort for $2,121 later that year. The structure remains a testament to the building powers of the federal government at a time when national defense was focused on the naval threat of the British Empire.
Maine offered a tantalizing first taste of the diversity of destinations with federal significance. We appreciate both the federal employees of the past who created them and those of the present who maintain them.
You can follow our journey in this weekly column and by checking out our Huey-centric Instagram page @federalfifty. Please send us any comments or suggestions for future stops (including if you'd like to be interviewed) here.
Worldwide Assurance for Employees of Public Agencies (WAEPA), is a nonprofit association (not an insurance company) formed For Feds, By Feds. The goal of WAEPA is to provide access to products and services that promote the health, welfare and financial well-being of its members. After more than 75 years in business, WAEPA has over 46,000 members. For more information, visit waepa.org, or call (800) 368-3484.
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